Voting in prison
The Electoral (Registration of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act was passed in June 2020. The Act allows people in prison who are serving prison sentences of less than three years, to enrol to vote in the General Elections. Prisoners on remand have always been able to vote.
Corrections’ role is to facilitate participation in the voting process.
Corrections proactively engages with people in prison and assists them if they would like to enrol. For people serving less than three years in prison, this happens after they are sentenced. For people who are serving a longer sentence of three years or more, this will happen when they are due to be released from prison and become eligible to enrol and vote.
When a prisoner enrols to vote, the electorate they are enrolled in is based on the address they last resided at for at least a month, reflecting Section 72 of the Electoral Act.
Where a person was without a fixed address prior to being sent to prison, they can use the last physical address where they lived for at least one month. Our staff work with people to help them identify which address they should use. A prisoner can record the prison as their postal address, so they can receive mail from the Electoral Commission.
2023 General Election
The 2023 General Election will take place on 14 October 2023. Corrections will facilitate voting for eligible prisoners through advance voting. The advance voting period is 2 October – 13 October. The Electoral Commission Returning Officers are currently working with sites to determine the dates they will be attending sites to deliver voting services, including collating and submission of votes. These votes are counted as special votes and are counted prior to Election Night.
In the lead up to voting commencing, prison staff speak to people in prison about their eligibility to enrol to vote one-to-one or in small group sessions. We are also offering assistance with completing the enrolment application form.
Each enrolment application is individually scanned and emailed to the Electoral Commission.
All prisons have a site liaison who is responsible for the enrolment activities at their site leading up to the advance voting period. Electoral commission staff will also enrol eligible people who wish to vote (and are not yet enrolled) on the advance voting days at each site. Prisons have worked to enrol as many eligible people as possible before 10 September 2023, so people receive their voting information pack from the Electoral Commission prior to Election Day.
Enrolling to vote is promoted in prison with the display and provision of Electoral Commission information in all units, including posters, application forms, brochures, and booklets. Information covers enrolment eligibility, why enrolling to vote is important, information on the Māori roll or General roll for people enrolling for the first time, and information on the unpublished roll and application process.
Prisoners also have access to information on television and via existing self-service kiosks.